Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FEMA Struggles To Provide Aid As Ike Survivors
May Wait Weeks For Food, Water And Electricity

From the AP via Huffington Post:

HOUSTON (AP) _ More Hurricane Ike relief was on the way for evacuees Tuesday as tens of thousands of people waited for food, water and ice, for the electricity to return to their homes or for their first hot meal and shower. President Bush viewed devastated areas, and urged people across the country to donate money to speed recovery.

The number of distribution centers was to be quadrupled to 60 to deliver food, water and ice. Still, for some, the wait for a return to normalcy could be days. For others, it could be weeks.

"A good bath would be nice: have the fire department swing by and spray us down," said Carlos Silliman, 48, as he sat on a picnic bench in front of his Galveston Island home, where 18 inches of water flooded his garage and ruined a freezer full of venison. "I'm ready to have a cold beer and read the paper."

For most, such luxuries are far beyond the horizon. Many service stations have no gasoline, and some major highways remain under water. More than 30,000 evacuees are still living in nearly 300 public shelters, and roughly 2 million people in Texas alone are without power.

Ike's survivors have already walked for miles and waited for hours at supply distribution centers, gobbling up all that was offered: 1 million bottles of water, 1 million meals and 600,000 pounds of ice in just the first 36 hours after the storm passed.

It's not enough, and those dispatching truck after truck to distribution centers around the city know it. One center north of Houston drew 10,000 people Monday in search of food and water.

Click here for the rest.

I, for one, am not quite ready to start complaining about how FEMA's doing this time around. I mean, I just don't really know what's going on. For that matter, I still don't know how the Katrina-besmirched federal agency is doing with Gustav related destruction here in Louisiana, or with the more recent Ike related storm surge devastation in coastal parishes. Okay, I know they're not doing enough, but that could just as easily have as much to do with the fact that these back-to-back hurricanes are major fucking disasters as it does with FEMA's old school incompetence.

I do know that the White House has seized the opportunity to try to redeem itself after its loss of reputation during the Katrina debacle. It's just that what happened in New Orleans was so fucking obvious: people sat there in flood waters for days while FEMA did nothing, and it was on TV for the whole world to see; Gustav and Ike's devastation is much more spread out, harder to fathom, harder for the press to cover. Maybe FEMA's finally doing a good job, maybe not. One thing we can be sure of is that, no matter what, Bush's people are in total spin mode for the media. Anything they say should be parsed through this filter.

For instance, during Gustav, Republican governor of Louisiana, Jesus Jindal, not with FEMA, but definitely playing for the same team, kept going on TV with speeches comprised of long lists of numbers, something along the lines of "we've got three thousand national guard troops coming into Terrebone Parish, a thousand more coming into Orleans Parish; we've got ten thousand MRE's and bottles of water up in Baton Rouge ready to go as soon as the weather has calmed enough to distribute it..." and on and on. The public, including myself, has no way of understanding if that means the new GOP governor was more prepared than the old Democrat governor, but all those numbers sure sounded like Bobby means business.

My suspicion is that Republicans have better rhetoric this time around, which they obviously do, but that doesn't mean they're actually doing a better job. But like I said, they may actually be doing a better job this time around. I just don't know.

I sure hope they are. The Houston area, my hometown, especially south of I 10, sounds majorly fucked up, as bad as Katrina devastated New Orleans in some places, and these people need all the help they can get. Strangely, and very fortunately, according to a brief email my father sent a couple of days ago, my family's house up in Kingwood had no damages--apparently, the houses around us got hit pretty fucking hard; "We are blessed!" my dad wrote.

Alas, the Lord hasn't smiled so brightly on hundreds of thousands of others: the government needs to do what God won't. And quickly.